Visits to the drugstore can be a test of your patience and composure. I failed a test recently, treating a young clerk so rudely that I went back to apologize. I had treated her badly after a long wait for the paperwork to be completed for a prescription for my wife Irene.
I was a little cranky because it was late in the afternoon and I hadn’t had my daily nap. My mood also wasn’t helped by an annoying man who came to the pharmacy counter and yelled to a woman two or three aisles away, “How do you spell your last name? They want to know how to spell your last name.” (Going out on a limb here, but I suspect this was not a long-term relationship.)
The woman, invisible from my chair in the waiting area, shouted out some letters. The clerk strung them together but couldn’t find that name in her computer, so the man yelled again for the woman—still hidden from view among the pain pills, greeting cards or hair sprays—to spell her name again and she did, even louder the second time.
The name still wouldn’t come up in the computer, so we were on to question number two. “What’s your date of birth?” the man bellowed. Still no recognition of name or date of birth in the pharmacy computer. Eventually the woman came to the counter and provided both pieces of information.
After several exchanges between the couple and the clerk, they left. I felt like applauding but didn’t. Following a wait that seemed nearly half an hour, Irene’s prescription was ready and then the questions began about my relationship with a store we will call Goodness Drugs.
“Do you have a Goodness Drugs card?”
“I hope not,” I said in by surliest manner.
“Well, let me have your phone number and we’ll see.”
“No, because if I do that you are going to give me a receipt that is 12-feet long.”
This is the truth, though I could have imparted it with a smidgen less vitriol. When you confess to cashiers at Goodness Drugs and other stores that you have their cards that they scan at the register, your receipt will be approximately as long as Wilt Chamberlain was tall, and it will be loaded with bar codes, email addresses, messages from government agencies, coupons for a discount on future purchases and phony pleas to tell Goodness Drugs how they are doing.
However, if you deny having a store card and refuse to provide a phone number, your receipt will be a little shorter than the length of an average zucchini. (Perhaps we can all agree this would be a much better world if there were more average zucchinis among us.)
My little tantrum wasn’t over yet. When the clerk put the prescription and a small can of shaving cream in a plastic bag, I said, “No plastic!” As I was shoving the two items into my coat pockets, the clerk put an edge in her voice and said, “Have a nice day.”
Back home, I got on the couch for a few minutes but couldn’t sleep because I was reliving what had just happened. I returned to say I was sorry, but the young lady said she didn’t remember me being rude and then smiled. Perhaps—just perhaps—to her mind my behavior was small peanuts compared to the character who had been yelling, “How do you spell your last name?”
The clerk doesn’t know it, but she is probably going to see a lot of me in the future. Our insurance coverage changed at the first of the year, requiring us to use this drugstore chain for prescriptions.
A second apology might be in order, just to be on the safe side. I will need a flu shot next winter, and if the clerk is still holding a grudge she might nod at the pharmacist when he’s about to stick a needle in my arm, signaling “that’s the one I told you about. Make it hurt real bad.”
This appeared earlier in the March issue of Great South Bay Magazine.
(The picture has nothing to do with the essay. It’s simply an expression of where I would like to be more often.)
I’ll be among those reading at a poetry and prose event this Saturday, March 16th, at the Oceanside, New York Library. These things begin around 2 p.m. and last a couple of hours. There is an open mic session after the scheduled readers.
You will be relieved to know I don’t write poetry. I’ll be reading a selection from my forthcoming book, “Grandma Told Me Never to Believe Anything Grandpa Says.” I also plan to share one of my many smart-alecky letters to a major corporation, one that got a polite response. There is always coffee and donuts at these affairs.
The Oceanside Library is at 30 Davidson Avenue, Oceanside, New York. Phone: 516-766-2360.